Yes I Can!

Lately my self-confidence is extremely lacking. I’ve never been that confident a person to begin with. I keep telling myself that I can’t. I can’t figure out my homework. I can’t get through this semester and graduate. I can’t get into any of the graduate schools I applied to. And even if I do, I can’t possibly handle grad school. I can’t figure out anything to do with my life that will make me happy and pay the bills. I can’t eat like a normal person, without binging or restricting or obsessing. I can’t love or even accept my body until I lose 15 pounds. I can’t become a better runner. I can’t run a full marathon. The list goes on and on.

NO! The only thing I can’t do is continue to think like this. The only thing holding me back from achieving great things is this mindset, combined with a fear of failure. I’m a bit of a perfectionist (okay, that’s an understatement), and I tend to think in black and white. If I can’t measure up to my unrealistic standards with something, I don’t want to do it at all. Of course, thinking like this doesn’t get anyone anywhere. I went 100 calories over my self-imposed limit for the day. Might as well all out binge, right? I’ve been running for a year, and have tried to train for a marathon twice and failed both times due to injuries. Time to give up, right? I’ve gotten a rejection letter from Princeton. Therefore, the other 10 schools I applied to are going to reject me too, even though I haven’t heard from them yet, right? I haven’t been doing too well in my classes the first 3 weeks of the semester, and I’m feeling overwhelmed by my workload. Why don’t I just settle for straight Cs this semester, since that’s all I can manage?

Somehow I need to stop thinking the way I’ve been thinking for the last 21 years. It will take some work. Fear of failure is a big one to tackle. It’s okay to fail; it’s better than not trying at all! I’ve learned so much from past failures that has brought me closer to achieving my goals.

For example, when I tried to train for the RnR San Antonio Marathon in November, I got injured because I didn’t realize that it’s not a good idea to run more than your body is capable of handling. When I got injured, I had only been running for about 8 months, but I was basically using an intermediate marathon training plan (meant for people who have run at least one marathon before, which does not describe me!), except with the long runs replaced with the novice long runs. And the once a week cross training days replaced with an extra day of running. And only taking one rest day a week, which for some reason was not the day before or the day after my long runs. Oh, and I was running like 7-8 miles the day after my long runs. When look back at that period of time now, it’s pretty obvious to me that I was over-training. But back then, I was excited about training for a marathon and approaching it like I approach everything else: setting unreasonable expectations for myself, thinking I can do it all. And then thinking I’m a failure when I realize I can’t live up to these expectations.

Same thing happened school-wise last semester. I signed up for 17 hours of coursework, including a graduate-level course, as well as being a grader for a class, and working in the lab on my thesis. On top of my marathon training. Things didn’t go as planned. I ended up having to drop the grad course as well as another course required for my major and take another class pass/fail because I got behind at the beginning and couldn’t catch up. I had a miserable semester filled with anxiety, self-doubt, depression, self-injury, and a strong resurgence of food/body image issues. By the end, I was doubting my future and my ability to do anything. On this first day of class this semester, I had to drop my thesis and tell my research adviser that I can’t work in the lab this semester. And of course I have to take the class I couldn’t take last semester now, on top of the other difficult courses I have to take. But from last semester’s experience, now I know that I’m not superwoman, and I don’t need to do so much at once to be a successful person, nor is it realistic.

I don’t necessarily need to reach for more realistic goals, but I should not be so disappointed when I fail. From now on, I will make an effort to view failures in a positive light, as learning opportunities and necessary steps on the road to success.

In that light, I am going to try to train for my first marathon again. Because this will be my third attempt, I am more likely to succeed because I already know at least two things to do differently this time. Like avoiding over-training, and learning all I can about injury prevention. And taking extra rest days when my body gives me warning signs, even if my training plan says to run.

This weekend, I’m doing a 14 mile run, so going by Hal Higdon’s Novice 2 program I’m planning to follow, I should be ready for a marathon the weekend of April 22nd at the earliest. But there aren’t any marathons in Texas from late April until the fall (I wonder why? could it be the 100 degree weather?). And I still have no idea where I will be in the fall. So my plan is to wait until at least mid-May, after the semester ends, and do a Marathon in a different state this summer! Not only will this give me some buffer room in case I encounter some more injury problems and need to take a break to heal, but I can make a vacation out of it! I’ve never planned a vacation on my own before. I haven’t picked a race yet, but I’m thinking about the RnR Seattle on June 23rd, mainly because Seattle is vegan Mecca. Well actually that title belongs to Portland, but apparently RnR Portland is only a half marathon. 

Sorry for the essay! Thanks for reading!

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